Purpose-Led Business, Now the Expectation
Surviving – let alone thriving – in today’s uncertain economy is hard. Successful companies share one unifying factor: they are purpose-led companies. Purpose is the driving force of thriving business today, a key mobilizer for employees, and the key attribute for well-built and sustainable organizational cultures that can grow, thrive, and shift with the times.
Research shows that people are demanding and craving more from the businesses, brands, and companies they work and buy from, and leading with purpose is not a bonus but an expectation for business in 2016. A good product or service is just not enough to stand out, guide your business forward, or recruit the people you need for long-term success.
Purpose needs to penetrate more than just marketing or branding. It should guide how a company conducts itself. Authentically purpose-led businesses use purpose to drive innovation, and as a guide for how the business sells, sources, recruits, hires and fires. It’s easy to lead with purpose in your marketing, but far more meaningful to lead your company with purpose that rings true through behavior and business decision making. And developing strategies for how to “live purpose” is the difference between purpose-led marketing and purpose-led business. A guiding aspiration (your purpose) gives people something to believe in and work towards. And in today’s business world, a strong, unifying purpose has a strong ROI.
The Buzz and Confusion
Because of all the talk around the importance of purpose over profit, “purpose-led” has become a buzz-word in the business world. And like any buzz-word, confusion accumulates around what it really means, why it matters, and how your own business can authentically and successfully lead with purpose.
So how do you insure that your business is genuinely purposeful and not just another marketing facade that your customers will see right through?
An authentic purpose needs to flow through your company seamlessly. It needs to drive your company’s way of being, the experience of dealing with your company, and your company’s presence in the marketplace. This includes how your brand behaves internally and externally.
Here are four examples of high-performing, purpose-led businesses we can learn from.
- Chobani: Empowers Employees
Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani, gave 2,000 of his full-time employees’ ownership of a stock worth about 10% of the company that employees will receive once the company goes public or is sold. Valued at about $3 billion dollars, this is no petty decision. The earliest employees could be given more than $1 million dollars. Ulukaya wants to share the wealth that his employees have helped grow since the company’s inception. The future of Chobani and consequently, each individual’s own future, now lies in their hands. Employees are empowered to continue building and share the prosperity of the business. Everyone has involvement, interest, and ownership. And this makes working for Chobani all the more meaningful. Imagine how much more inspired, driven, and empowered employees now are to see Chobani succeed in the long run.
- Unilever foregoes short-term profits
Staying true to your purpose even when your business has to sacrifice more immediate profits will drive business in the long-term. Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, assured that the company’s carbon footprint would be cut in half, while simultaneously focusing on doubling revenue. Even though sourcing 100% of its raw materials using environmental, social, and ethical principles meant sacrificing some short-term profits, the Unilever leadership understood that this choice would actually drive profits. Similarly, CVS stopped selling cigarettes, taking an estimate $2 billion loss, to lead by purpose — helping people on their path to better health. Purpose-centric businesses understand that how you do business should be dictated by why you do business.
- Google gives back
Genuinely generous brands give in a way that aligns with their purpose. Google, a thriving company, has a major philanthropic mission. Google helps “innovators around the world who are using technology to combat humanity’s biggest challenges.” By helping accelerate and scale the work of others who share their same purpose, Google reinforces its own purpose with each act of generosity. This makes the Google purpose more authentic, genuine, and impactful. For example, recently, the company gave a 1 million dollar grant to Unicef engineers who are working to fight Zika virus. On the cutting edge of technology, Google makes sure the way it gives is always towards the future.
- UPS is committed to accountable reporting
Because of our work with UPS, Emotive Brand learned first-hand that efficiency is the DNA of a vast logistics company. Scott Davis, UPS Chairman and CEO asked the right question: “How do we meet the needs of the many in the most efficient, responsible way possible?” Asserting that “such a challenge requires continual innovation, a global perspective on what matters most.” UPS’s sustainability reporting shoes that they are “committed to more.” The company is more than just a transportation giant. In every aspect of business, they work to “help customers pioneer more sustainable solutions”— delivering more efficiently, creating global connections, taking action, and giving back. Similarly, Salesforce makes sure to point out that sustainability is more than just a buzzword, and considers the environment to be one of its key stakeholders.
So if you are looking for a purpose-pivot for your business, be sure to create a strategy that moves beyond just marketing and branding. Take stock in why you matter. Develop a purpose-led strategy that aligns to your business. And then use that strategy to make the necessary shifts to ensure you are actually leading with purpose. Live and breathe it internally, while creating the right brand experiences externally so that people really feel it throughout all that you do.
When you lead with purpose in this way, your customers and employees will feel more invested, engaged, and loyal to the brand and your business will be positioned to thrive.
If you are in need of formally articulating your corporate purpose, learn more about Path to Purpose.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.